A beautifully composed, creepy tale of possession and hauntings, director Oliver Park’s The Offering is among the more confident Kabbalistic horror films I’ve seen. Screenwriter Hank Hoffman draws from the mystic ponderings of the greater purpose of the Binding of Isaac, which some believe was meant to bind a particularly foul and terrible Shade (demon in Aramaic) called Abyzou. As the opening scrawl informs us, Abyzou is the “taker of children” as well as the ‘”bringer of miscarriages.” A truly frightful monster of the nightmare realm, Abyzou, of course, descends from Lilith, Adam’s first wife – the mother of demons.
Into this dreadful premise enters Art (Nick Blood) and his non-Jewish wife Claire (Emily Wiseman). Art has decided to reconcile with his father for several reasons. First off, Claire is pregnant. Second, he needs collateral to have a loan approved to save his house and is hoping to convince his father, Saul (Allan Corduner), to use his funeral home as said collateral. This might be a harder issue to resolve than any of the participants expect, as Saul has yet to forgive Art for turning away from the Hasidic community he was raised in.
However, as Saul knows he is about to become a Zadie (grandfather in Yiddish), hope springs anew that bridges can be mended. So it is that Art, Saul, and Claire find themselves in the building when a deadly trap is brought to them. That is when they find Yossile (Anton Trendafilov) dead. In the cold open of this film, we see him commit a complicated form of suicide that involves an amulet, a knife covered in sacred Kabbalistic formulae, and a lot of ash. It is down to Saul to decide how best to dispose of Yossile. As this is a horror film, there is a simple solution to solve the problem, and somehow, nobody manages to achieve it.
“…suicide that involves an amulet, a knife covered in sacred Kabbalistic formulae, and a lot of ash.”
Giving away the whys and wherefores of this creepy, spectacular film would be a crime. Sufficed it to say, The Offering is very well made. The production design is wonderful. There is real age and decrepitude imbued in Saul’s home and workplace. As with most old brownstones in Boro Park, Saul’s home is split into two floors of living space and one of work. The basement is where the creepiest scenes are set. The lighting gives just the right sense of impending despair.
Park’s direction is subtle and direct. He understands that fear is less in showing us the monster and more in the building sense of dread that Abyzou could manifest anywhere. The special effects for the demon are appropriately creepy. This is a creature you would never, ever want to meet. Its hunger for children can be read as an allegory for all the creepy pedophiles who populate the business portion of the entertainment industry.
I would be remiss if I overlooked the writing. Hoffman has crafted an effectively slow and diabolical screenplay off the story of Jonathan Yunger. The Yiddish, Hebrew, and mystic lore referenced is very effective. In addition, there’s a naturalistic sense of place in present-day Boro Park that I rather dug.
If you are a fan of demonic possession and haunting movies, seek out The Offering. It’s a wonderfully creepy Kabbalistic entry. It will certainly unsettle your sleep just a little.
"…a wonderfully creepy Kabbalistic entry."